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After more than three years helping to build a business around a developer facing SaaS product, I've left to start my own consulting company called Reify. We do sales and Marketing software and process consulting for developer-facing, business to business SaaS companies. Get in touch if you make a product for developers and need help!

The most important question to ask about your SaaS business

After doing an initial announcement about my work with Computer Modern, I was very happy to hear from a number of companies (around a dozen) who were interested in the type of go to market strategy help I’m trying to provide. As I made my way down the list of founders, marketing executives, and managers who got in touch to chat, I had a great time refining my pitch, trying to get at the heart of the problems I’m trying to solve.

At first, I made the rookie mistake of saying way too much about the kinds of things I’m working on without doing one of the most important things you can do in sales: shut up and listen. After I got a few of these under my belt, I learned my lesson, and began to ask questions first before I tried to pitch my services. Out of all of the questions I asked, one seemed to get people thinking about the kinds of concerns I wanted to discuss better than any other.

Here it is:

How many customers do you want?

At first this might seem like a silly question. Who doesn’t want a lot of customers, right? Wrong! I didn’t ask “how much revenue do you want” (though it’s also wrong to assume that every company is interested in making billions of dollars), I asked “How many customers do you want?” What’s great about this question is that to answer it, you have to have a lot of other questions answered first. Here are just a few:

And many, many more. My position here is based on the belief, espoused by folks like Hardie and Fader, that Customer Lifetime Value is the key to understanding your business, especially in a contractual sales setting. Everything flows from how much your customers will pay you.

If you’re trying to figure out go to market, or how your idea or product can become a company, ask yourself this question, and force yourself to answer the other questions it poses.